Published April 1, 2007.
Warm sand and cool surf. The sweet scent of cotton candy and the thrill of your first roller coaster ride. These are the kinds of memories the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has inspired over its first hundred years as one of America’s oldest and most beloved seaside amusement parks.Colorfully illustrated with archival images of famous attractions, unforgettable performances, and vintage memorabilia, THE SANTA CRUZ BEACH BOARDWALK tells the vibrant history behind this premier California tourist destination. Born in 1907 out of beachfront bathhouses and the ashes of Santa Cruz’s first Casino, this “Coney Island of the West” is home to National Historic Landmarks like the enchanting Looff Carousel and the classic Giant Dipper roller coaster, as well as dozens of other rides, games, shops, and venues, including the historic Cocoanut Grove, the award-winning Casino Arcade, and Neptune’s Kingdom. The origins of these Boardwalk treasures are detailed here, along with profiles of famous personalities and loyal concessionaires who have put a friendly face on the Boardwalk for more than a century. A dazzling pageant of Americana, pop culture, and amusement park history in the making, this delightful tribute to the Boardwalk will rekindle recollections of sea breezes and saltwater taffy for years to come. (amazon.com)
I know I’ve talked about it here before (I mean, I took a nice big long trip there a year ago) but I can’t express enough how much I love Santa Cruz, California and it’s Boardwalk. There’s just something about it that keeps drawing me in and even now, I have a craving for Santa Cruz. It’s been a year. I need to go again.
I was lucky enough to be in Santa Cruz in 2007 when they had their official centennial (it was also my first trip there) and I’ve been back nearly every year since and they continue to celebrate a century strong by the sea. While the Boardwalk and Municipal Wharf have kept up with the times, there’s just this feeling in the air that keeps it all anchored in history. If you can appreciate that nostalgic feeling, then not only would you love Santa Cruz, you’d love this book as well, even if you’ve never been there.
The Lost Boys was what first introduced me to the Boardwalk and my love of seaside amusement parks blossomed from there. I’ve done research on a much closer seaside park, Coney Island, from it’s beginnings until it’s current state (unlike Santa Cruz, unfortunately, Coney Island is being eaten up by developers and slowly dismantled). So of course, why wouldn’t I dive into Santa Cruz’s history as well?
While A CENTURY BY THE SEA doesn’t go into great detail about the Boardwalk’s past, it offers enough of a glimpse into history to get a feel for what the area used to be. It shares not only company stories (the Seaside Company, that is) but stories from locals as well and it just roots you further in the nostalgia. And they’re told as if someone were sitting across from you just talking about history. Nothing pretentious or showy about it. It just is what it is. The photos only add to all that is awesome about this book, bringing to life the past and showcasing how the Boardwalk morphed into what I’ve seen these last few years.
It’s evident that The Santa Cruz Seaside Company takes great care in preserving the history of the Boardwalk. There is an unabashed pride simmering in the pages that’s almost tangible. You can grab hold of it and actually feel the history of the Boardwalk. As someone non-local that has been there, I can root the history to its current map but even if you haven’t, and you have a love of history, you’d be able to appreciate, and maybe even love, the fun times that this book relives.
If you have any interest in boardwalks or seaside towns, or want it to feel like summer no matter what time of the year it is, pick up A CENTURY BY THE SEA and relive the history of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and roll around in its present. Then book your vacation because after reading this, if you’ve never gone, you’ll want to remedy that as soon as humanly possibly. Just an FYI, there’s a Chili Cook-off in October and a Clam Chowder Cook-off in February. Just saying.
Ban Factor: Low – For serious, if banners find anything objectionable about this book, then it must be a really slow news day for them. This book is friendly to people of all ages; no swearing, nothing lewd (unless you count the shamelessly exposed ankles in the pictures of the 20s-era women in bathing suits).